Things change so quickly that sometimes a person has barely a moment to breath before realizing that change has not only come to pass but is permanent. Such change weighs heavy on the human heart and calls for strength some people simply don’t feel they have.
Emily knew such change… such a demand on the human heart. She’d experienced it before. She knew to get beyond it, it was a matter of inhaling and exhaling slowly. She knew you had to find a place to focus your thoughts while the brain processed everything else in the background.
The young woman was trying to remember that process as she dealt with the current changes in her life. One moment she was healing and happily living with her father and the next she was at her aunt’s house watching a circle of women she barely knew trying to pick out an appropriate dress for her to wear to her father’s funeral. It all seemed so inappropriate to her. She’d been allowed to pick out her own dress when her mother had died and she had been far younger then.
The funeral came and went. The dress they’d told her to wear was somewhere hours away, crumpled at the bottom of a laundry hamper at her aunt’s apartment. Emily now sat in the passenger seat of her aunt’s SUV with all the boxes and suitcases that signified the young woman’s belongings crammed into the back of the vehicle. Aunt and niece were heading to a destination mostly unknown and quite far away.
The situation already felt bleak but the unbearably long drive she was on made it quite worse. There were so many trees and so much road and few other distractions to draw the eye’s attention in-between; few other car rides the young woman had made were so torturous in their repetitive scenery.
It wasn’t like Emily hadn’t known long car rides most of her life. The first long ride was from her mother’s new home in the city to her father’s old home in the country. She remembered little of those early drives; she was just a little spit of a human then. A few years later she would ride from her mother’s old home in the city to her father’s new home in a bigger city. Those were nice rides though; eventful and with rituals. Rituals were good. Emily had a need for rituals and thankfully her father knew this.
The nature of ritual in a long car ride was to offer diversions to the often easily bored young mind: Emily’s father realized this very quickly as his daughter began to grow older. It was all about distraction, misdirection and the presentation of well liked things. And when those things were established they became the rule of the trip; the things she looked forward to.
Emily’s father established his rituals quite quickly with this much longer route to his new home. His daughter was only five years old and finally starting to remember just how badly she disliked that drive to his old home. So he did a little research. Through the use of tourist maps and suggestions here and there, he was able to plan a path that would give his daughter something to enjoy; something to look forward to.
The first time he picked up his daughter from his ex-wife’s home he saw how excited she was to not be making that boring trip to the backwoods of their state. He had imagined that in her mind this new home in the city meant they were finally in the same city, no matter how many times her mother told her this wasn’t the case. Little girls will wish for something to be true and hold to that wish unto the death of it.
Little Emily was full of hopeful chatter as she was buckled into the backseat of her father’s car and the ride began. Her father had to smile a little to himself as he heard his daughter’s irritated groan as the car turned onto the highway on-ramp. “You said you lived in the city!” her little voice protested. It was almost as if you could hear the death rattle coming from her dying wish.
The father assured his daughter she would like his new home and that it was in a far bigger city than the one she lived in; there was so much they’d be able to do there. He explained that he knew she’d been hoping for a place that wasn’t at the end of a long drive though. He asked her to just trust him a little bit. The tiny noises of irritation she made were enough to show the father the trust he sought was a lot to ask from the little girl.
He ignored her irritation and let her sit and stew a little bit in silence until they’d traveled twenty miles and he steered them towards an off-ramp.
“Are we there?!” Emily had chirped so excitedly.
Her father looked at her from the rear view mirror and gave her a sympathetic look. “I’m afraid not honey, we have two more hours to go. But I have a few special things for you along the way. The first one is this.”
He made several quick turns and pulled the car into the parking lot of a very large and very over the top just-off-the-highway tourist type attraction. It was a restaurant but one of those types that had animated mascots throughout the building and big colorful things on the walls or hanging from the ceiling. It was the exact type of place his second wife would sum up as a tacky Midwestern hell on earth. For his daughter, however, he knew it would be a grand distraction from the road. His hopes were confirmed when Emily squealed with delight. All she’d needed to see was the giant panda bear waving at her from the front porch of the restaurant. Read More